Chrome OS: Cheaper Netbooks on the Horizon?


Google last week took the wraps off its brand-new lightweight operating system, Chrome OS. Optimized to work with web apps, it makes the browser the center of the computing experience.

Over on GigaOM Pro (subscription required), Ed Gubbins is pondering whether the new OS could usher in a new era of super-cheap netbooks:

“Google is in a unique position to set the price at whatever point will lure consumers to its new model. After all, the company makes money almost anytime someone uses the web. So when it offers free Wi-Fi in dozens of airports over the holidays to promote its Chrome browser, as it’s doing this year, it’s not just eating that cost as a marketing expense; it’s monetizing most of those eyeballs through ad revenue. Similar math could justify netbooks at prices drastically cheaper than today’s, especially if Google leverages the closer relationship it would have with these netbook users.”

I’m not sure I’d be too happy about giving up some of my privacy for slightly cheaper hardware, but I suspect that’s not true of the general population. As long as the OS is usable and does everything that they want it to, my feeling is that most people will look for the lower-cost option.

Also on GigaOM Pro is a new report from James Kendrick, “Google Chrome OS: What to Expect,” which takes a look at what we might see from Chrome when it’s launched next year. Particularly interesting is his observation that Chrome “will pull the user into the Google cloud firmly, and while Google will point out that users can access the entire web, the OS will be optimized for use with Google’s web services.” That’s fine if you’re primarily using Google’s services — as many web workers already are  — though I’m not sure I’d be all that happy about putting all of my eggs (apps, browser, OS, data — everything!) in one Google-shaped basket. He also notes that “Hardware vendors are going to jump on the Chrome OS bandwagon in numbers, as they have long wanted an alternative to Windows. The open-source nature of Chrome will further that movement, as vendors will be able to customize the Google computer to fit their business objectives.” This means that even if you’re not keen on Chrome OS, it’s going to be pretty hard to ignore if you’re in the market for a netbook next year.

Chrome OS is an interesting experiment, especially for web workers who already spend a good deal of time working with web apps. It’s likely that the change that we’ve seen over the last few years — applications and functionality moving from the desktop to the web — will continue, meaning that in the future, the browser will completely dominate the computing experience. If that’s the case, whether Chrome OS is successful or not (and with Google’s monetary clout, it will at least have a very good chance), making the browser into the operating system is the next logical step.

What do you think of Chrome OS? Would cheaper hardware be worth sacrificing a little privacy for?



Aww, come on guys… There have been already cheaper netbooks in the market. What you are doing here is kind of misleading.

See, there’s this thing called “the Microsoft tax” which is the price you pay for the software that this or that company decided to stick on that Hard Drive. Up until recently there was just XP from MS, but that also brought along a lot of restrictions in the hardware, by Microsoft’s decision on not to sell XP preinstalled on computers bigger than 1.6 GHz, 160 GB of HDD and 1 GB of RAM. Now they can (and will) offer Windows 7 with it removing some if not all of the restrictions (but Starter? Bah!).

There’s always been an option and that’s Linux. There have been a lot of netbooks that came with it preinstalled, and, since it comes with no restrictions because it’s free, not only they are cheaper but also carry with better hardware like more RAM and more HDD. (Yes, there have been instances where netbooks with better specs are as much as $250 cheaper because they come with Linux preinstalled).

If the consumer is going to make the jump from XP to 7 (which it on itself carries a learning curve) you should orient them better and speak on behalf of the penguin. Because people should know by now that most, if not the vast majority, of netbooks will not come with all the “bells and whistles” that MS promises in 7 (Starter edition? Bah!) but Linux comes with equivalents and then some more stuff that they will find incredibly amazing (OpenOffice, Gimp, etc).

I know Chrome OS will have many advantages for some, but it’s still in early beta stages, so why don’t you all try something that’s already out, it’s been always free and will, ultimately, help you be more productive as well?

Jason Barone

I don’t see it being that much cheaper though if it’s released anytime within a year. I read that it designed to work with solid state hard drives those are still costly. Unless those prices drop considerably, any saved cost from using open source Chrome OS will probably be eaten up in hardware costs. What’s your opinion on that?

As for privacy issues, you’re right. But personally, a Chrome OS netbook would be a mobile supplement to my desktop, where I keep things backed up often. I’m a Google junkie and while I’m not happy about the sketchy privacy policies, their services are too productive and useful to pass up. I would totally use a Chrome OS netbook.


Will you be able to download and save files locally – say to a USB memory stick – or does somebody a Google need to be beaten?

C. Hallmark

Yes, lower prices no matter what.

We are close to a price war in computers now (watch for Black Friday and the weeks beyond), so anything that significantly adds to this trend is not only welcome — it is r-e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n-a-r-y!!

Simpler and cheaper (not better and more expensive) — that is the unstoppable trend in PCs and similar devices. And alternatives to Microsoft and Intel are the answer.

A $100-$200 computer will do for most applications, something computer vendors hate to hear.

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